Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Jesus Christ Superstar:
Jesus Christ Superstar returned to Regent’s Park Open Air theatre after a successful and award winning run in 2016. Having missed it in 2016 I was determined to see what all the hype was about.
Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice tells of the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. There is a particular focus on Judas and his growing dissatisfaction in Jesus’ leadership, all with the backing of a strong rock opera score.
As this show was originally written as a concept album the sound, band and vocals must be spot on. The band, lead by Tom Deering, filled this criteria from the very first chord. The likes of Tyrone Huntley as Judas gave a spine tingling vocal performance. This was complimented by Tim Newman as Simon and Phil King as Peter and a powerful ensemble sound. Declan Bennett took the role of Jesus. Whilst his voice was pleasant for the most he didn’t have the high rock tenor belt needed to really get the full power across in Gethsemane. The high notes in this number literally conveys screams of anguish and this was lacking in Bennett’s interpretation.
Drew McOnie returns as the choreographer for Jesus Christ Superstar and brings a very fresh feel to the show as a result. This show is not typically a dance show but McOnie takes this idea on it’s head and packs the stage with dancers oozing with sass and general ‘coolness.’ Despite this unusual take, the choreography works well and the ensemble feel like a real unit of followers due to the street style chosen. My main criticism of the choreography would be Herod’s Number, whilst I loved the Lee Bowyer look of Herod, played by Peter Caulfield I thought the choreography could have gone further.
My main issue with the show however is with it’s identity. Jesus Christ Superstar seems unclear as to if it is a rock concert or a musical. The soloists sang with mics in their hands or on stands and whilst on occasion this was incorporated into the action it often meant that there was this constant reminder that the performer was simply that, a performer. The same applies to the sporadic use of instruments. Maimuna Memon as Mary is a prime example of this, whilst she has a pleasant voice all emotion was lost as the focus was on the guitar rather than any connection with Jesus, or the audience. I therefore found it very hard to really feel for any of the characters within Jesus Christ Superstar.
Overall if you want to hear the music performed live in what is an undeniably incredible setting enhanced by a brilliant lighting design then this is a show to see but if you want to leave the theatre really feeling for Jesus (or Judas) then be warned that it may not live up to your expectations.
To find out more about the show and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre have a look at their website.